Meeting of the Minds


By Shaleek Blackburn

“According to a concept developed by two professors from Stanford University, there are two types of mindsets: the growth mindset, the understanding that the hand you are dealt is just the starting point for development, believing basic qualities are things one can cultivate through effort, and the fixed mindset, believing one’s qualities are fixed in stone, which creates an urgency to prove oneself over and over again,” says James Forkum, Director of Collegiate Recruitment and Retention for the MCAA program. When applying these mindsets to athletics and coaching, says Forkum, one can compare the vastly different coaching styles of arguably two of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time, Hall of Famer, Robert Montgomery “Bob” Knight, who won more than 900 NCAA Division I men’s games and John Wooden, dubbed the “Wizard of Westwood” for his accomplished career as head coach of UCLA’s men’s basketball team, where he won 10 NCAA championships.

There’s no doubt, says Forkum, that both men enjoyed great, maybe even equal success. But, he says, how they achieved it was not the same. “When you break it down past the winds and look at the way they went about achieving those results, it was diametrically opposed," says Forkum.

While Wooden was known for more of a “growth mindset,” motivating and analyzing his players and giving them constant training, Knight’s coaching style modeled the “fixed mindset,” says Forkum. “Knight saw losses as not only as major personal failure, but a team one.” He adds, “The team was his product and they had to prove his (coaching) ability every time out.” It’s important for coaches, says Forkum, to figure out what mindset they have early on in their career and seriously evaluate how it’s working for their team and themselves.

“With the fixed type of mindset, you can certainly identify abilities, personalities, skills and those kinds of things, and those skills can be excellent and literally off the charts,” he says. “But those individuals really get kind of put in ‘prison’ because they don’t recognize that they can grow and nurture those skills.” On the other hand, Forkum suggests, the growth-mindset athlete or coach, may have other personalities, skills and abilities, anywhere from not-so-good to the top-of-the-chart, but they're not focused on that, they're focused on changing and making athletes better."

3 Tips For Evaluating Your Mindset

Message Delivery

Do you send a message to players and parents that says, “I’m interested in developing your skills and talents” or “You are not coachable?”

Player Praise

Praising sends a fixed mindset message; making confidence and motivation fragile. Instead, focus on strategy, process, effort and choices.

Top of Mind

Do you think first about your record and your reputation? Are you intolerant of mistakes or motivate through judgment?

Tags: development, management, coaching, team

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